Life is funny, isn’t it? We come around to this time of year, every year, and yet we act like it’s the first time, when it comes to change.

What an ugly word, “change!” It means I might be uncomfortable, have to do something I’m not fond of, or make some very hard decisions. We all feel this — the pressure to decide, and then act. How many of us make “New Year’s Resolutions,” that last about as long as the word? I don’t believe in them. I think they allow us to be OK with procrastination … over and over.

How about making a decision anytime, and then act on it? A real act. Something I try to do everyday is being more simple, more grateful, and kinder to those around me whether I know them or not.

Here I am again, looking at a new set of months, made up of days, hours, seconds, etc. What will I do with them? How will I spend them? Can I make each of them count? Where did I miss the mark in 2020? This is a time of assessing how close I came to my long-term goal of simplifying everything.

My surroundings remind me of the “taken-for-granted” goodness in our daily lives – a roof with no leaks; a safe home with few drafts; a warm, comfortable bed; food and fresh water; dependable vehicles; clean clothes; a way to bathe; wonderful pets to love. Simple things yet so many spend every waking hour trying to achieve one or two of them.

I’m also reminded that I still have too much “stuff” (things I don’t use/need), which requires space, thought, care. “I’ll deal with it tomorrow,” I say. Tomorrow is a time that never really comes. So I’ll pick up where I stopped and continue on my quest toward simplicity.

Simplicity, downsizing – it sounds easy enough, and really might be, after you put in the work. Requirements: careful analyzing of each room/closet, one at a time, and brutal honesty about need vs. want. For instance does anyone need six coats, 20 pairs of shoes, three tightly packed closets of clothes, four sets of china, more linens than will comfortably fit into a closet, kitchen pantries bulging with more food than can be consumed in a year? How many people could be helped by our simplifying? How many could I help warm, clothe, feed with our excesses? Or should I follow Scrooge’s advice and “let them die, and reduce the surplus population?”

Most of us have at least one favorite “collection” and nothing is wrong with that, unless it no longer intrigues you. Saving it for your kids? I know very few kids who are interested in their parents’ collections except for the money it might bring. How many auctions have you been to where a collection, treasured for a lifetime, went for a song because the kids didn’t want it? I’ve actually wept at auctions because I know what those items, selling for cents-on-the-dollar meant to their deceased owners. If you really want a “warm-fuzzy,” share your treasures with special friends and “heart family” whom you know will enjoy the item/collection as you did. I love doing this! If no one shares your interest then sell it, spend the money on a need, or give the money raised to your favorite charity.

Since you’re sorting and culling, clean as you go. Put things where they belong, make “donate,” “return to,” “pass on,” and “throw away” piles, then promptly do exactly that. How much lighter you’ll feel! These long, cold winter days are a great time to this. I know this because that’s exactly what I’m doing right now. I’m also rearranging things which have been in the same spots for years. A clean, organized, redesigned, redecorated, “less stuff” house, plus the joy of knowing I’ve helped needs, and surprised others with unexpected treasures. And don’t forget the file cabinets where you stick every paper you don’t want to deal with. Begin one drawer at a time and be honest with everything you pick up. Are all your important documents in order, up to date, and safely stored? “I’ll do that tomorrow” said the person who passed on before it was done. Simplicity includes making it easier for those you’ll leave behind. Papers in order, appropriate people knowing where things are stored, getting rid of what they shouldn’t have to deal with. I think this is a wonderful way to spend a few cold winter days. I’ll be sorting and filing and putting all my unneeded papers in the compost for my worms!

Sherrie Ottinger, aka: “The TN Dirtgirl,” is a regenerative Earth thinker, teacher, columnist, author and speaker. Her passion is all things “dirt.” She may be reached at with comments or questions.

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